When Death Occurs

Regardless if a death is unexpected or if it occurs over a long period of time, the loss of a loved one makes us feel emotional and overwhelmed.  No amount of preparation can fully prepare you for the loss of a loved one.  When you are in a heightened emotional state, even the most basic decisions can seem very difficult.  The following is a rough guideline of what needs to be done within a fairly short duration of time following death.

When death occurs at home or a place of business

If the person was under a physician's care, the physician/health care provider must be notified to assure that circumstances and conditions of the death were of natural causes and that a certificate of death will be signed. In the State of Maine, a physician, physician assistant or a certified nurse practitioner may certify a cause of death. If the person was under hospice care, contact the hospice representative and they will assist with proper steps to follow and will assist with some of the family’s needs. The police DO NOT need to be contacted. A call to the police is only necessitated by circumstances that may constitute an unnatural death. Unnatural deaths and deaths with an unknown manner, are investigated in some form by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Augusta. The OCME will determine the course of investigation and will release the person’s remains to a funeral home after their examination is complete (usually within 2 to 3 days).

When a death occurs at a hospital/nursing home/hospice facility

The staff of a care facility such as a hospital or a nursing home will notify you immediately after a death has occurred if you or your family is not present.  If a funeral home has been provided to the hospital or nursing home, they will be notified at the time of death.  If you are present at the hospital when the funeral director arrives, they will ask a few questions about the deceased wishes and set up a time to discuss arrangements. If you are not present a funeral director will contact you to discuss these arrangements.

Informing a Funeral Director

Once everything has been cleared with the proper authorities, the next call you place should be to your funeral home of choice.  Funeral directors are here to help you navigate the various logistics that come with planning services and initiating some legal steps. They will also act as a facilitator and will work to make your experience less stressful and will help you plan something that will be meaningful. Many times a death can create a time of chaos and confusion. We  are here to make your planning and memorial/celebration experience more manageable and we hope to relieve the stresses that can accomapny a death.

Meeting a Funeral Director

You should meet with a funeral director within 24 - 48 hours of a death to begin making arrangements for your loved one.  Deciding on these final arrangements may seem like a very daunting task, especially when emotions are heightened.  The Kiley & Foley staff has years of experience dealing with the planning process and we strive to ensure your family needs will be met and that planning goes as smoothly as possible.

Making Arrangements

The Funeral Director will gather information required for filing a death certificate, one of the first legal steps.  This information includes:

  • Full Name and Address
  • Marital Status
  • Race/Ethnicity
  • Date and City of Birth
  • Highest Level of Education
  • Father’s Name, Mother’s Name (including maiden name)
  • Name of Spouse (if married or widowed)
  • Occupation and Employer

The funeral director will file and procure certified copies of the death certificate so that legal paperwork may be initiated (with or without the assistance of an attorney). Some common documents and legal proceedings that may require a certified copy of death include:

  • Bank/Brokerage Account Statements
  • Beneficiary Designations
  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Real Estate Deeds/Transactions
  • Vehicles with a title - automobiles, boats, ATVs, trailers, etc.
  • Stocks and Bond Investments
  • Pre-Nuptial and Post-Nuptial Agreements
  • Loans and Leases
  • Copies of Utility Bills (Electric Power, Cable, Phone, Cell phone, etc.)
  • Will
  • Tax Returns

If no advance planning has been done, necessary arrangements need to be made for service arrangements.  These include:

  • Selecting burial or cremation
  • Scheduling the location, date and time of the visitations and chosen services
  • Making Funeral Product choices
  • Arranging cremation and/or burial including a cemetery lot
  • Preparing an obituary notice
  • Contacting and planning participants (clergy, celebrants, military honors, music, etc.)

A funeral director will guide you through all these steps, using your wants, needs and desires as a foundation to create a meaningful memorial for your loved one. From here the services can be personalized.  Did your loved one have a favorite sports team?  What was their favorite type of music?  What activity was your loved one known best for?  Recalling fond memories assists with the grieving process and will help honor the life of your loved one.